History of Alice
From its wholesome and pastoral beginnings following World War II to today's high-tech age of instant media access, Alice in Dairyland has grown and changed with the times.
In 1948, Alice was a beauty queen fresh out of high school. Today, she is professional public relations professional with at least four years of experience or education in agriculture, public relations, communications, or related fields. Beyond individual communication skills, the list of job requirements includes knowledge about Wisconsin's diverse agriculture and products, history, resources, and rural-urban issues. Alice is expected to work effectively with colleagues, the media, and the public. She develops her own educational materials, speeches, and presentations.
The early Alice traveled nationwide with a chaperone, logging 150,000 miles a year - most of it on airplanes - and making 1,000 appearances annually. Today's Alice spends much of her time driving Wisconsin's highway and byways, accompanied only by her cellular phone and GPS. However, she continues to travel both nationally and internationally, and still logs enough miles to circle the earth.
In that very first year, the program beat the bushes in rural Wisconsin looking for Alice contestants, and judges narrowed the field to 16 finalists based on photos alone. Today, the call for applicants goes across the state to colleges and universities and Wisconsin’s array of agribusinesses.
Early Alice contests drew 500 entries. Today, a rigorous set of professional skills and qualifications narrow the field to 15-20 applicants.
The process of choosing Alice has changed substantially over the six decades of the program. The selection criteria that first year was simply ‘beauty and health, general personality, and ability to present herself and her message before large groups.’ By the late 1950s, the selection process began in May and culminated in August. Four “Alice princesses” were named in June, and they spent the next two months in a constant job audition until Alice was named in August.
Today, Alice in Dairyland is a marketing professional by any and all standards. In the first round of the selection process applications are evaluated on resumes, personal interviews, and communications ability. If she meets these criteria, she still has to impress a selection panel during the three-day finals where she is evaluated on public speaking, personal interviews, tv and radio interviews, and agribusiness tours.
Once hired, Alice garners over a million dollars worth of free airtime and print space for Wisconsin's food, fiber, and natural resources industry. In return, she earns a salary of $40,000 plus travel and health expenses, along with valuable professional experience and contacts.
Over the years, Alice in Dairyland has indeed grown to adapt to the changing face of agriculture and the contemporary world. Even so, she remains a unique custodian of Wisconsin's proud agricultural tradition and dynamic voice for agriculture's future – Serving as Wisconsin’s agricultural ambassador.